It’s 19 June 2017 as Jurgen Klopp returns to his office at Melwood, plotting for his second full season with his Reds, having scraped 4th spot last season.
During the summer months, Klopp relieved goalkeeping coach John Achterberg of his duties and brought in his own man from Germany, tasked with readying Loris Karius and Danny Ward for the battle ahead – in the Premier League, Champions League and against each other for the No.1 spot. Outcasted Simon Mignolet will also be on the plane to Hong Kong as well, but is likely to be headed out of the door.
First to Melwood most mornings are Nathaniel Clyne and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Both know they will be fighting for one spot at right-back, with the latter levelheaded enough to know he also has much to learn from the experienced England international.
Alberto Moreno yearns for a return to Spain, while Klopp finally wants a specialist left-footer at left-back. The end of the first week of pre-season saw the arrival of Fulham wonderkid Ryan Sessegnon for a decent sum, and he will understudy Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy, who signs for the club just in time for their flight to the Far East. With Jon Flanagan back from his not-so-successful loan spell with Burnley, the Reds have ample cover at both full-back positions.
To the delight of Reds’ supporters, Mamadou Sakho made peace with Klopp and will look to extend his good timekeeping in China, leaving Ragnar Klavan on the outs and close to leaving for Stoke City. With Dean Lovren and Joe Gomez starting Liverpol’s first overseas friendly against Southampton, the first choice central defensive pairing of Joel Matip and Sakho played the last half an hour together; a perfect combination for most – Sakho’s brawn and aggression coupled with Matip’s composed and more tactful approach.
Long time favourite Lucas Leiva returned to Brazil with his first club Gremio just before the Reds’ tour of China and Australia, leaving James Milner – the most senior member of the team who led the Reds to a slim victory against Andre Vilas-Boas’ Shanghai SIPG – to take the Brazilian’s place as Klopp’s Mr. Versatile.
The Reds’ first blockbuster signing comes in the form of RB Salzburg’s Naby Keita, completing his medical in Shanghai just before the Reds depart for Melbourne. His arrival gives Klopp the upper-hand in any contract negotiations with Emre Can, whose deal runs out in 12 months’ time. Kevin Stewart’s days, though, are numbered, as he prepares to fly back to England to negotiate his £10 million move to Sunderland.
Just 12 hours after touching down in Melbourne, skipper Jordan Henderson leads training, with young Serb Marko Grujic hoping to impress enough to win a midfield spot ahead of fellow midfielders Giorgino Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana.
As the Reds prepare for their friendly at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), or Anfield South, Klopp is trying out Roberto Firmino in a No.8 position – similar to Lallana’s transition last summer.
The same fate befalls Daniel Sturridge, whose poor injury record and ill-suitability to Klopp’s style have seen the manager accept an initial £30 million from West Ham United. Almost immediately, Sturridge’s fee partially pays for the Reds’ second blockbuster signing, Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, who joins his team-mates in training once the Reds get back to England.
Klopp already has an idea on how to maximise Lacazette and Firmino for the season ahead. The latter to play as the No.9 against the top 6. The Frenchman to lead the line for most games against deep-lying lesser oppositions, allowing the Reds sit deeper, drawing opponents out, before hitting them on the break with his and Sadio Mané’s pace.
Despite Klopp’s clear favourability towards his new signing, Divock Origi and the returning Danny Ings have been working hard all pre-season and are still looking to prove themselves, with both finding the net in a 2-2 draw at MCG. As the Reds are about to depart back to Liverpool, Klopp will be hearten to see Philippe Coutinho looking as sharp as ever, while Ben Woodburn‘s enthusiastic as ever, looking to learn from the Brazilian.
Sheyi Ojo impresses in pre-season, but Klopp knows he needs more first-team experience for now, and is loaning him to promotion candidates Huddersfield Town, helmed by his mate David Wagner. Harry Wilson, though, is included in Klopp’s plans for the season ahead, likely for what they hope are two extended cup runs, as well as an understudy to Mané.
Just as Anfield’s revolving door seemed to be slammed shut, one more comes in right before their last home friendly before the season opener. After months of negotiation and times looking as if Bayern Munich’s great lure might prevail, Klopp manages to convince Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt to join the red half of Merseyside instead.
The German international comes on for the final half hour during the final pre-season friendly at Anfield to raucous applause, as Klopp pushes Coutinho into a more central position in what looks to be the line-up he takes into the first game of a season which will truly jumpstart Klopp’s Anfield dynasty.
A Premier League title and an exciting extended run in the Champions League? Who knows…